Salomy Jane

Salomy Jane
R: Lucius Henderson, William Nigh. B: Bret Harte (story), Paul Armstrong (play). K: Hal Mohr, Arthur Pawelson, Arthur Cadwell. D: Beatriz Michelena, House Peters, Matt Snyder, William Nigh, Ernest Joy, Andrew Robson, Clarence Arper, William Pike, Harold B. Meade, Harold Entwistle. P: California Motion Picture Corp. USA 1914

“The visual beauty and directorial sophistication of Salomy Jane upend assumptions of what a first feature by an untried regional company ought to look like. In 1914, feature-length films were still novel, and the San Francisco boosters behind the formation of the California Motion Picture Corporation had not the slightest experience making movies. From such small companies formed that year in the West one expects the rough techniques of, say, the Los Angeles–based Oz Film Manufacturing Company or the San Antonio–based Buckhorn Film Company (…).  Instead, Salomy Jane arguably surpasses the year’s best-remembered movies from mainstream studios. (…)
Although titled for its central character, Salomy Jane is a community story, set in the summer of 1852 in, appropriately, Hangtown (a California gold-mining settlement more welcomingly renamed Placerville in 1854). The film deftly interweaves older honor violence brought from the East (a feud from Kentucky and revenge for a wronged sister) with new Western threats (a stage robbery, quick-to-lynch vigilantes, and rivalries over Salomy as a rare young woman among the forty-niners*). (…)
Playing the title role is 24-year-old Beatriz Michelena in her first film. She’d been onstage since age 11, first alongside her father, a Venezuelan immigrant and opera tenor, and by age 17 she was promoted in lead soprano roles as ‘America’s Youngest Prima Donna’. In Salomy Jane, with a hairstyle evidently borrowed from Mary Pickford, she conveys the no-nonsense independence that soon made her America’s first Latina movie star.(…)
Salomy Jane survives to give vivid witness to the flourishing of the regional feature film in the years just before the conglomeration of Hollywood.”
Scott Simmon
National Film Preservation Foundation

*The people who left their homes in search of gold were later referred to as the “forty-niners,” simply because the year was 1849. Although the exact numbers are unknown, it’s believed that around 300,000 people migrated to California during the Gold Rush.
History of California Gold Rush and The Forty-Niners

Jean Durand: Zigoto, 1912

Zigoto promene ses amis
R: Jean Durand. D: Lucien Bataille, Gaston Modot. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1912
Print: Filmmuseum Amsterdam

Zigoto et la blanchisseuse
R: Jean Durand. D: Lucien Bataille, Berthe Dagmar, Édouard Grisollet, Gaston Modot. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1912

“Jean Durand got his start, as did many of the film pioneers, in the café-concerts or music halls of Paris. In 1908, Georges Fagot introduced Durand to Charles Pathé who was constantly recruiting talent from the Parisian stage for his studio, and Durand went to work very briefly at Pathé. He left Pathé for Societé Lux, where he made more than forty films, most of which have been lost. In 1910, Gaumont hired Durand as a replacement for Roméo Bosetti, who had gone to Italy, and he was charged with directing the burlesque Calino series. Durand, it turns out, was a master of burlesque. (…)
Durand went on to create two other very successful burlesque series for Gaumont, the Zigoto series, which ran in 1912, and the Onésime series, which ran from 1912 until 1915 (…). Durand’s burlesque was extremely physical, even more so than Bosetti’s, and to that end he pioneered the uese of stunt people (as things were always getting broken and people hit). His influence was far reaching in later burlesque and slapstick performances like the Keystone Cops or the Marx Brothers.
In about 1910, Durand began working with the Wild West actor/director Joë Hamman. Some of the Westerns were episodes of his burlesque series. (…) These films, at Hamman’s suggesion, were shot in France’s Camargue region, which is somewhat reminiscent of some Wild West landscapes. The Camargue Western was one of the casualties of the war, but Durand’s influence may have ultimately led to the Spaghetti Westerns of later days. (…) Despite his enormous contribution to early film, Durand was ignored by the first generation of film historians and was thus more or less forgotten by film scholars until quite recently. His work has lately been reevaluated.”
Dayna Oscherwitz, Mary Ellen Higgins: The A to Z of French Cinema. Scarecrow Press 2009, p. 148/49

“As Zigoto, comic Lucien Bataille is one of more quietly eccentric denizens of the outrageous European film comedy universe. In some ways his body language and comedic attitude foreshadows Jacques Tati as Zigoto ambles to a decidedly different drummer. Bataille left Gaumont in 1912 and headlined in a new series for Éclair where he was re-dubbed Casimir. He later worked as a character actor in films such as Le Miracle des loup (Miracle of the Wolves 1924) and La Coquille et la clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman 1928).”
Steve Massa
cruel and unusual comedy

Cretinetti in War Times

La paura degli aeromobili nemici
R: André Deed. K: Segundo de Chomón. D: André Deed, Leonie Laporte, Domenico Gambino, Felice Minotti. P: Itala Film, Torino. It 1915
Print: Cineteca del comune di Bologna / Museo Nazionale del cinema di Torino

“The film is constructed on a contemporary requirement tied to the wartime situation, seeing as Italy had gone to war with Austria in May 1915. At the end of the wedding ceremony the procession of newlyweds, parents and friends sets off along a road in Turin. The group finds itself in front of a poster that provides advice in case of an aerial attack by Zeppelins. Cretinetti, shocked, tears the poster and takes it with him to make sure that he won’t forget anything. The recommendations focus on the need to have sand bags and buckets of water to hand to put out any fires caused by the bombs. (…)”
Jean Gili: Catalogue Il Cinema Ritrovato 2005
european film gateway

“André Deed, who played Cretinetti, was one of the most representative comic actors within the lavish Italian genre production. His speciality was creating continually different situations in which to vent his anarchic and destructive energy. In ‘The Fear of Zeppelin’ a finale with an unusually bitter back-flavour is included, in which the newly-wed are separated by war the day after their wedding.”

“(…) La paura degli aeromobili nemici equated the war emergency to a series of governmental instructions that the film’s protagonists, Cretinetti/Foolshead and his new bride, follow all to literally to prepare themselves against any imminent attacks. While Cretinetti is supposed to reach the front line and join the anti-aircraft defense division, he never leaves home. Unsurprisingly, the film never shows any airplane or anti-aircraft defense armament. At the same time, it never shows anti-state for official injunctions. Its real target, as it was typical in Italian comedies, was the upper-middle class’ excessive attachment to rules of proper conduct – in both peace or war times.”
Giorgio Bertellini: Italian Cinema and Worl War I, in: Graziella Parati (ed): Italy and the Cultural Politics of World War I. Rowman & Littlefield 2016, p. 73

Deed-La paura-467

>>> more Cretinetti: André Deed as CretinettiFrom Boireau to Cretinetti

Florence Turner: The Anarchist’s Wife

The Anarchist’s Wife (aka The One Good Turn)
R: William V. Ranous. D: Florence Turner, Leo Delaney, Mae Costello, E.K. Lincoln. P: Vitagraph Company of America. USA 1912/13
Print: EYE film
French titles

“The lead is played by Florence Turner, ‘the Vitagraph Girl’, one of the first big movie stars in the US. It is generally agreed that she and Florence Lawrence (‘the Biograph girl’) were the first American actresses to be famous purely on the basis of their screen work (rather than initially via theatrical work), and among the first performers to make personal appearances in promoting their films. At the height of her popularity in 1912, Turner was unequivocally the most popular film actress in America. She left for Britain in 1913 to have more autonomy over her career, starting her own studio there; although she didn’t maintain the same level of popularity as in her Vitagraph days, her films from that period were still extremely successful and contained the wonderful Daisy Doodad’s Dial (1914).”
Silents, Please!

“Having joined Vitagraph at an early stage in its development, Turner gained the chance to mature with the company. According to some reports, she performed numerous duties there, including payroll and overseeing the other actors. Whether she involved herself in the creating of the films during this phase of her career is unknown; certainly she claimed to have written scripts when interviewed later in life, but did not specify whether this applied only to her post-Vitagraph endeavours in Britain. We can safely believe her when she says that ‘she was the first woman in America ever engaged as a permanent leading woman [in films].’ And at one point she was undoubtedly the most popular motion picture actress in the US, receiving nearly 100,000 votes in a 1912 poll (more than double than what was earned by Mary Pickford).”
Charlie Keil
Women Film Pioneers Project

>>> Florence Turner in Vitagraph’s Shakespeare films